Reprieve for hero military dogs facing death
Two military dogs facing euthanasia have been saved, according to Sky sources.
Belgian malinois Kevin and Dazz were reportedly due to be put down this week because they couldn't be re-homed.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson called the dogs' handlers into the MOD for a meeting on Monday morning, after reports appeared in various media outlets over the weekend.
It is understood that he assured them everything possible would be done to find a home for the dogs.
There was considerable public pressure on Mr Williamson to deliver the reprieve after a petition started by SAS soldier Andy McNab received almost 400,000 signatures.
He wrote on the petition that service dogs had saved his life "on numerous occasions".
"We have a duty to save them," he said. "In Afghanistan when I was on a patrol the dogs found an IED in front of us, I was number three in line, I was very, very lucky to survive.
"They also saved countless lives when I was in the Special Air Service sniffing out explosives."
Conservative MP and Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan also wrote to the Defence Secretary asking for answers.
"These are hero dogs who have fought fearlessly alongside our soldiers. Let us now be the ones to fight for them and give them a chance to live happy lives where they can thrive. It is the least they deserve," he told The Daily Telegraph.
The dogs are currently being held at the Defence Animal Centre near Melton Mowbray, in Sir Alan's constituency.
"Of course, it is of great importance that all military dogs must be properly assessed to ensure they do not pose a danger to civilians, but only in circumstances where such danger has been properly proven should they be put down. I have written to MOD ministers to personally ask for a reprieve and am awaiting a response."
The dogs served multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan. Military dogs are highly trained to sniff out explosives and find safe routes for soldiers through buildings and alleyways.
Once reaching a certain age they are re-trained to be safe in public. Many are considered unsafe to be rehoused and are put down; others have ailments such as arthritis relating to their years of hard military work.
The founder of the German Shepherd Dog Rescue Centre told Sky News she was happy to rehouse one of the dogs – the centre's contact details were passed on to the MOD at her request.
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"Once you take them away from their working environment then I think you can retrain them and carefully rehome them," Jayne Shenstone said.
"It's often just a one-way ticket sending them to the MOD. The MOD regard these dogs as property and when they come to the end of their working life they can just be disposed off. We regard them as serving soldiers and that they should be offered a happy retirement in the right environment for them."